Tag Archives: accessibility

CSS expert-review Flash listserv mailing list mobile web mp4 Online News Papers streaming video task-analysis Usability Web Design web standards XHTML

Weekly listserv journal – Web standards on news sites

As part of a class project I’ve been reading the Online-News mailing list and responding to some of the issues and discussion brought up there.

A huge thread which began last week on the 15th but I didn’t read until now is about what kind of standards sites are using in their code.  The original poster is trying to use XHTML and CSS, but noticed that no other news sites he looked at validated as XHTML.  His question was why.  A few ideas came up-if you use CSS for page layout, anyone using an older browser will lose all of your layout and most likely just see a bunch of text.  Someone else pointed out that this could actually be a good thing-users with disabilities, for example, who surf the web with text-reading software, won’t see your layout anyway and a bunch of text is more useful for them.  Ditto for Palm users and people surfing on tiny displays.

I think the real reason people aren’t using valid XHTML and CSS is that it’s a lot of work to set up and get working exactly right.  Most places are not putting money into things like that, they’re laying people off and hiring people who will do data-entry type tasks on the cheap as opposed to building a system.  Plus a lot of places spent tons of money on their current systems just 3 or 4 years ago.

Another issue brought up was standards for delivering streaming video.  One poster recommended using Flash, which is something I read somewhere else before, and it does sound like a great idea.  Flash can serve mp4 video, doesn’t pop up with ads or offers for a pro version like RealPlayer and QuickTime, and is already installed in most browsers.  A lot of posters in the group are not big Flash fans, because it’s a semi-closed proprietary standard, but there doesn’t seem to be a better alternative to streaming video over the web.  One poster offered a few places where Flash was just about the only tool that could do what the site designers wanted it to do, but one in particular (http://www.msnbc.com/modules/yip02/) made some posters scoff.

Also, no matter what standard you decide on using, there’s some browser that doesn’t work the same way the others work.  And standards constantly change.  The question came down to how much should content be separated from presentation (so that different presentations are available for different devices), and how much should presentation be standardized (so that the same presentation will work to some degree on different devices)?  There was an interesting article here: http://www.adaptivepath.com/publications/essays/archives/000266.php.

Usability Study: Kent State School of Library Science Website

Kent State University School of Library Science Web Site

Site Design

The most basic level of usability is accessibility. Although it is beyond the scope of this analysis to consider problems that disabled users may have, it is useful to look at the site through the eyes of the Javascript-disabled or the DSL-disabled, those who do not have the latest, most up-to-date browsers with all the options turned on. One thing in the KSU SLIS site’s favor is the lack of any necessary plugins, like Flash or QuickTime VR, which some users might not have installed. The home page and the site’s navigation bar do use Javascript, which some users may have turned off, but disabling Javascript does not completely break the site’s navigation. It does, however, mean the users only have access to the first level of the navigation hierarchy from the homepage, which might make it a little more difficult to figure out which section is the appropriate one to go to.

On the plus side, the site is fairly slow-connection friendly. The entire homepage, including the Javascript rollover images, is only about 163K. The site makes appropriate use of alt tags for images, so anyone using a text-only browser like Lynx or surfing with images off will still be able to get around. Again, they will miss the descriptive second-tier categories for each section. The site is fully navigable in a full-text browser, but there are two problems: first, the homepage has no descriptive text, and second, there’s not always a link back to the homepage, probably because the image that links back has not alt text on most pages.

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